As we move into 2021, I can’t help but get a mental image of space travelers returning to earth and emerging from their tiny spacecraft into a vastly altered environment–so familiar and yet so foreign. I keep thinking about how we will feel as we step back into the concert hall or arena; board an international flight, bring our staff back into our physical space after operating for a year or more almost completely from our respective homes.
I imagine that we’ll move right back into some aspects of pre-Covid life. But some of the habits, skills and behaviors will stick and create lasting change. So how has marketing evolved in response to the pandemic and what should we, as marketers, do to capitalize on and adapt to these changes?
I’ve been studying many expert opinions on this topic and have found that six trends are really resonating. I feel confident that my clients must respond to these new realities to thrive in 2021 and beyond. Perhaps you will agree.
- The digital tools we adopted in 2020 to work, and play, from home will become a permanent part of our lives. Digital communications tools have been the lifeblood of work-from-home reality. Meeting apps like Zoom, communications tools such as Slack, online educational environments, and other social tools have shown us how to connect locally and globally to do business, learn and build relationships. These tools will not go away, so our clients must adopt them and use them to connect with their clients and reach potential customers.
Webinars as a tool for automated online marketing will be big in the next few years and should be a consideration in any integrated marketing plan. Hosting a webinar, posting it to your website, following up with attendees and folks who accepted invitations but weren’t able to come will be powerful tools for connecting to prospects and moving them through the sales funnel into marketing qualified leads.
Related to this will be the continued rise of the virtual event as an effective and efficient way to interact with customers and prospects. I believe we’ll see that almost all in-person events will be augmented by virtual options which are so useful in breaking down physical and distance barriers. Your business or organization may be touching the local audience in-person while building a global virtual audience. And environmentally responsible businesses will be able to use virtual events to lower carbon footprints and make good on their values.
- Online purchasing will continue to grow. I think it’s safe to say that there will be ever greater growth and disruption in the retail sector as folks continue to purchase groceries, sundries, clothing, and so much more online. This increased competition is real for local businesses, who must meet this trend head-on by generating a digital purchasing environment as attractive, brand-centric and user friendly as their seasoned online competitors while continuing to serve customers from their brick and mortar addresses. Many predict a steep incline in storefront sales shortly following the pandemic as folks rush to indulge in the sensory and social experience of real world shopping. But this won’t offset the adoption of online buying, so local businesses should understand and improve the online shopping experience immediately.
It wasn’t very long ago that the majority of users were researching products and services online in preparation for physical purchase and this simply isn’t true anymore. I’m certainly going to maintain most of my weekly shopping online with doorstop delivery and save that valuable time. Another trend is the growing use of social tools as vehicles for research and online purchase. So understanding how to generate sales via these tools will be necessary.
- Mobile is everything. Being at home provided so much opportunity for many of us to adopt all sorts of uses for our mobile devices as we FaceTimed, texted, enjoyed streaming media and connected via social tools straight from this device. Many of us simply did our work from that little mobile hub. Smart businesses will recognize this and encourage customers to purchase right from their phones using curbside pick-up, or at-home delivery to enhance the experience. And search engines will make mobile-friendly websites a requirement — websites that are not mobile-friendly will be dropped from organic search rankings.
- Social Media spends will become more refined. As more and more people adopt social media platforms one trend is revealing itself. Most all users are on multiple social platforms so there can be as much as a 90 percent overlap among audiences. Gone are the days when businesses needed to invest in four or five social platforms in order to reach a certain demographic. Now the smart selection of one or two platforms (i.e. instagram and facebook to reach women 35-50) will allow marketers to refine their budgets and messages to these platforms.
- SEO may be the long game, but it’s a required investment. All this online activity across so many platforms means that search will be even more necessary to reaching your audience. Organic search (augmented by paid) has always been the goal in the search rankings game. And now we need to factor in the growing use of voice activated search (thanks Siri) and image search. Little things like selecting more general hashtags in addition to brand specific tags will make a difference. And content will be created understanding that what is written is often different than what is spoken when it comes to optimizing search.
- Video is king. I can’t say this enough — video is being consumed at a much higher rate than written or audio only media. Producing and promoting video content is simply imperative. And inclusion of all those video assets on your website will make it extra searchy for Google.
Is your head spinning? Mine is! But I’m excited to incorporate these trends into meaningful marketing plans for my clients in the same way I’m excited to step out of that spaceship (my house!) and onto terra firma once this dratted Covid is beat into submission.